Congratulations on landing that new client! This is the beginning of a new and profitable relationship, and you want to ensure that everyone’s set up for success. And that starts with a great kick-off call.
A kick-off call gives you a great opportunity to establish the perfect first impression and set the right tone for the rest of your relationship.
You can either come off as extremely well-prepared and organized – or the opposite. And nobody wants the latter.
To help with that, this blog will walk you through the different components of a successful kick-off meeting, including how you should go about preparing, and what key ingredients should you keep in mind!
The Pre-Kickoff Preparations
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Internal sync up with the team
By now, you should have identified the main team members you want on the project, along with a few other resources – like writers, editors, and designers. When they jump on the first kick-off call, you want to make sure they are completely up to date on the conversations your sales team has had with the client so far.
This includes notes from discovery calls, any collaterals (decks, websites, or brochures) the client has shared in advance, or a questionnaire they might have filled out. You don’t want the client to repeat stuff they have already shared with your team.
Request assets beforehand
Avoid turning the kick-off call into an information overload session. Instead, share the agenda beforehand, and request the client to share whatever they can ahead of the call to optimize for time.
Even better – send a questionnaire to the client ahead of the call, so that they have time to think and respond. Get the entire team’s inputs to prepare this list of questions.
Include only the introductory questions to set the tone for the kickoff discussion. The questions can be around their website, social media presence, current content initiatives, competitors or benchmarks, and expectations.
Here’s a questionnaire template you can check out!
Preparing the agenda
The meeting structure can also be a part of the agenda itself, and can be shared to the client beforehand. How you go about structuring your kick-off call will depend a lot on the project, but here are some key elements you should include:
- Team introduction
- Understand the client’s business and industry
- Current marketing efforts & response so far.
- Discussing buyer personas
- Identifying benchmark/aspirational content
- Finding key competitors and defining unique value props vis-a-vis them
- Defining the workflow, setting expectations, finalizing check ins.
Regardless of the project, the above-mentioned key items will generally find a way in your kickoff call. Let’s look at these elements in more detail to give you a fleshed out understanding of a kickass kick-off call!
Key Ingredients of a Successful Kick-Off Call
1. Get to know the people
Start the call by introducing yourself. This is the opportunity to make things a bit more fun. You can include your past work experience, similar projects you might have handled, key responsibilities in this engagement, and some fun facts.
Go around the (virtual) table to make similar introductions for everyone in both teams.
2. Get to know the business and industry
Ask the client to explain the product / service in detail. You could ask them to walk you through the deck / video they shared ahead of the call, or take you through a demo, if needed.
3. Discuss the content initiatives so far
This is relevant only if your client has had a digital presence so far, and is not starting from scratch.
As a good practice, you should have already gone through their website, social media pages, blog posts, and other marketing efforts. However, it’s better to let them explain their content efforts to you. Understand their current approach and strategy, and the response so far.
If your client has a good brand presence so far, try to understand their current voice and market positioning. Ask the client questions around the ‘Know, Feel, Do’ framework. It looks something like:
- Know (What do you want the reader to know?):
- After reading your blog or any content copy, what should the reader know?
- For a specific content bucket, what are the key things you’re trying to convey to the reader?
- Feel (How do you want the reader to feel?): Use this matrix to understand what different kind of emotions you can invoke in the reader. Ask the client what emotion(s) are they chasing for their readers?
- Do (What do you want the reader to do on reading your content piece?):
- Do you want the reader to download your ebook or fill your contact form?
- If you’re campaigning for a product, do you want the reader to try out the product demo after reading?
- Maybe you want them to call you.
- All in all, this is about the call-to-action of your content pieces
You can use this framework for two things – identifying the client’s digital voice so far, and finding gaps in the voice and finalizing the target tone.
4. Identify buyer personas and current objections
It’s a good idea to inform the client beforehand to have someone from the sales team on the call. Sales people are generally in the most direct contact with the client and understand them the best. Talk to the sales people to get an idea of the buyer persona. Broadly, your buyer persona should answer questions like:
- Interests of the buyer
- Fears / challenges of the buyer
- Favorite social networks
- Least favorite social networks
- Buying behavior
- Spending power
- Preferred content type
- Relevant content for the buyer
Tip: Work on creating multiple personas, and also create a negative persona. The negative of your buyer persona will basically be someone who is NOT your customer.
5. Identify benchmark / aspirational content
Content or design, both can be pretty subjective. It’s important to understand your client’s taste by checking the kind of work they look up to. Depending on the project type, ask the client about the brands in their industry they really admire. So, if it’s a web development and management engagement, ask them about the website designs they like the most. If it’s about social media content, check the SM pages they aspire to be like.
Tip: Remember, you’re the expert in this area. So, if you feel that the benchmarking content being offered by a client is not relevant for their cause, and there’s not much inspiration you’ll be able to draw from that – tell it to them upfront. Better still – present some alternative benchmarks, some options instead of what they suggested.
6. Finding key competitors and defining USPs
You’d probably already have identified the key competitors during the initial pitching, but it’s better to let the client talk about their competitors. While talking about this, ask them questions about the element(s) in their product / service that sets them apart from their competitors. This information will be extremely useful while you’re actually working on the various campaigns – you’ll know exactly what feature to pitch to the audience.
Once you’ve got a list of competitors from the client, the onus is on you to perform further research and analyze the various campaigns being held by the competitors. Do this after the kick-off call, with the idea to scrutinize the client’s work to pick up and modify the good bits while abandoning the bad ones.
7. Outlining scope of work, timelines, and standard TATs
The scope of work is supposed to include all the pieces that are to be tackled monthly (supposing it is a monthly engagement), or one-time (if the project is a one-time engagement). Timelines can be decided per piece – this is upto the mutual chemistry between you and the client. Or, if you don’t want to go the per-piece way, you can look at weekly, bi-weekly, or twice a week deadlines, based on whatever works for the both of you.
Likewise, give the client an idea of your team’s standard TAT – this will come in extremely handy if some ad hoc work is to be turned your way. Make sure to include some breathing space for your team in the TAT you quote. To simplify things on this front, you can take the Agile marketing route and set up regular sprints in weekly or monthly fashion to keep the work streamlined.
8. Defining expectations and success
With the scope of work and timelines finalized, it’s important to have expectations and the definition of ‘success’ laid out upfront.
There are various metrics that you can use to measure the performance of your campaigns. Come to a mutually agreed list of metrics to track the success of your work in a 30/60/120 day period based on the client’s need. Here are some metrics you can look at:
- Website traffic
- New visitors vs. returning visitors
- Average session duration
- Page views
- Most visited pages
- Exit rate
- Number of comments / social shares
- Social reach
- Email open rate
- Click through rate
Again, these metrics are also not hardbound and will change depending on the campaign at hand. The idea is to have the client clearly define their expectations, so that your team can work towards living up to it. Whatever metrics you are finally looking at, make sure you’ve taken a note of those metrics’ values once before starting the engagement. This will come in handy later while checking progress and making comparisons.
9. Finalizing marketing tech stack
Discuss about the list of collaboration tools you’ll be using during the project. How will the files be shared and maintained? WHere will all the communication take place? Which tool will be used for sending mailers?
Aligning these things will help you keep the project’s communication streamlined. Some tools you may want to use include:
- Task management systems, like Jira, Asana, Basecamp, etc.
- Document sharing environment, like Microsoft docs, Google Docs, Confluence, etc.
- Conferencing tools, like Google Meets, Zoom, MS Teams, etc.
- Communication and collaboration tools, like Slack, WhatsApp, or good old email!
For some work, you might need specific access and information from the client before you can begin work. Think Google My Business, Google Maps, Google Analytics, CMSes, stock pictures website, design assets, and obviously – the correct details for invoicing.
Before you happily get back to working on the project, there are a few more things you should talk about during the kick-off calls. Since this call is to initiate a relationship between you and the client, the first few steps should be carefully laid out. Likewise, the progress tracking systems and check-ins should be regularly in place. Talk briefly about these things before ending the call!
– Taking the next steps
Let your team take this forward. Let them ask any questions that they might have, or any inputs that they’d like to give. Otherwise, just reiterate the scope of work once, and verbalize the next steps you’re going to take.
– Tracking and communicating progress / milestones
While discussing the next steps, establish a clear baseline for how you plan to share progress with the client. You can give the client a walkthrough of whatever reporting template you use to keep a track of tasks, costs, milestones, and timelines. This report should be available to everyone involved in the project, and a clear communication channel should be set in case of any delays or roadblocks.
– Scheduling regular check ins
The final point before you hang up this rather long call is scheduling routinely meetup calls. The purpose of these calls is to track progress after fixed intervals of times. Trust us, even the best of the projects can go haywire without proper, routine communication with the client – and regular check ins are the best way to go about it. Based on the client’s availability and requirements, these calls can be weekly / biweekly / twice a week. Make sure to add this recurring call to the team’s calendar soon after this call!
Go, ace it!
Kickoff calls can often be daunting, but if you follow the right practices, you’ll find yourself making the most of every kickoff call you schedule, resulting in overall improvement in project management and workflow. The funda is simple – be open and honest with the client, and ask as many questions as you need to in order to get clarity.
We hope this article helped you understand the different important elements of a kickoff call. If you have any questions, please let us know in the comments below!